• Lori Adams discusses building raised garden beds in her Daily Sitka Sentinel gardening column

(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 3 of the Wednesday, March 7, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

                                             GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams


The following is an overview of my method for building beds:

  1. Cut down any existing brush and use a pickax to break up the soil in the entire area to a depth of at least 6 inches. I prefer this method over simply laying down landscaping cloth and covering it up with soil. If you don’t remove the salmonberry and horsetail roots they will crawl around under the cloth trying to find light, and when they find it they will sprout up through the weak spot and become IMPOSSIBLE to eradicate.
  2. Remove any roots or large stones. Vegetable crops only require the removal of stones that are larger than an egg, unless you are going to grow carrots or parsnips. For these crops you should sift out the gravel because it can cause crooked, twisted or split roots.
  3. Mark out a space no wider than 4 feet for your bed and shovel the surrounding dirt into it. Raised beds are a MUST in rainy, cloudy Sitka. They will drain faster than they would if left the same level as the rest of your yard. Wet soil is cold soil!
  4. Bring in a “clean” material such as wood chips, sand or sea shells for the pathways. This will reduce the amount of mud that is tracked into the house and gives you a nicer surface to kneel on while working.

It is not necessary to build a traditional bottomless box to keep dirt in place. My best bed is just dirt that is mounded up about a foot high and it withstood the entire season of weeding and u-pick traffic. When we built it we simply leaned a long piece of plywood against its side and kneeled against it, then compacted the damp soil along the edge by pounding it with our fists. The plywood was removed and the dirt stayed in place.

Traditional boxes or rock edges provide ideal conditions for weeds, slugs and mold. This being said, I do need something to keep the soil in when I till and keep the ducks out when crops are growing, so I keep experimenting with different types of fencing. My latest prototype utilizes chicken wire, rebar and 2×4’s.

The next step is to amend the dirt which I will address in the next issue.

Brought to you by Down to Earth U-pick Garden

Located at 2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Mon-Sat 11:00-6:00

747-6108 or 738-2241